And Pigs Will Fly – To Rwanda

Fly Ronnie to Rwanda Launch 10-7-2016
Shane McAuliffe holding the new Rwandan flag with his sister, Natasha and Percy – The Truly Irish Pig at the launch of the Fly Ronnie to Rwanda Campaign in Castleisland on Sunday. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Volunteers in Irish Veterinary Assistance (VIVA) is a charity group which helps set up and maintain livestock aid programmes in the developing world.

Shane McAuliffe is its local and vocal representative and he mounted a campaign corner at Castleisland Co-Op Mart yard on Sunday during the Castleisland Chamber Alliance Summerfest.

“It was this time four years ago I was volunteering in a veterinary clinic in Ghana. This was an eye- opening experience for me and I have always had the people of Africa on my mind since,” said Shane as he explained the modus operandi of the group and the background of his interest and support for the initiative.

“VIVA enables community groups to buy livestock and create sustainable livelihoods. They train community animal health workers and they support animal breeding programmes and it is run on a 100% volunteer basis.

Food Secure

“I have always followed their work closely, including a recent project involving oxen and ploughs in Uganda. That has helped 100,000 people become food secure. The chairman of VIVA is Mike Burke – a pig vet.

“With only a handful of pig vets in our small industry I would work closely with Mike and when I heard that their latest project involved pigs I knew that I had to come on board and help to raise funds.

“The project is called Fly Ronnie to Rwanda – Ronnie being the pig mascot who lives a very happy life on an Irish pig farm. A total of 260 female pigs will be airlifted from Shannon Airport in September to 130 families in Rwanda.

“These 260 pigs will come from the Truly Irish farm at Hermitage Genetics in Kilkenny. VIVA’s project partners, Bothar and Heifer Rwanda, will help train the families in Rwanda and help them to build adequate housing prior to the arrival of the pigs.

Passing on the Gift

“The sustainability of the project is ensured by the Passing on the Gift (POG) mechanism. Piglets from the litter of the pigs must be passed on to another farmer in the community.

“As 90% of Rwandans are involved in agriculture, the majority of them survive on less than the equivalent of €1 a day. This project provides the families with an income, it provides them with funds to educate their children, it provides them with adequate nutrition and will help transform their lives.

“Most people will know of Rwanda from the 1994 Rwandan Genocide where 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days.

Hope and Inspiration

“The new Rwandan flag is one of hope and inspiration. This flag was adopted in 2001 because the older one was too much associated with the genocide. The blue is the largest part and it symbolizes peace and happiness, the yellow is for economic development and the green holds out for the hope of prosperity and the sun represents enlightenment.

“The cost of airlifting these pigs and providing the training for the families in Rwanda is €25,000. I have set up a GoFundMe page which is just sitting at under €2,000. I have planned a sky dive next month to help promote the fundraising project.

“I would be grateful of any donation great or small to help me in this fundraising campaign,” Shane concluded.

The link to the page is:  www.gofundme.com/flyronnietorwanda

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